Have you ever imagined filling a year with incredible experiences every day? That was how 2015 unfolded for us , with our year of travel. We left our careers, sold our home, traveled slowly or lived in nine countries. We tried new things, tested our comfort zones, learned about ourselves and of each other in ways we never imagined.
Not all our memories of 2015 were great. Some were downright scary and challenging, while others were incredible and inspirational. Here are a few of our favorite story-worthy, moments of 2015 when we traveled to Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Australia, Portland,U.S.A, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia.
20 of Our Most Memorable Moments of 2015:
1. It’s Not A Dream – One year ago we got on a plane to Bangkok incredibly exhausted after planning for a year for our new life of full-time travel. The best part was looking each other and acknowledging that all our work paid off and WE DID IT!
2. Ten years went by too fast – We spent our first days of a new life celebrating our wedding anniversary in Ko Samui, Thailand, the place where we eloped 10 years earlier. What a fun ride back in time to the Wat Plai Laem Buddhist temple, riding on a motorbike, just as we did to our ceremony back in 2005.
3. Beach Living – We walked only 30metres to the beach from our Airbnb home in Bang Po beach, Thailand. With pink and orange sunset views over the Gulf of Thailand, we walked the beach barefoot each night, which lead us to one of the many incredible Thai restaurants just off the beach. After we gorged ourselves with incredible Thai food, we headed back to the our house, walking under the stars. We were exhausted from a year of planning, selling everything and leaving our home country, it was the perfect start to our new life.
4. I was bitten! – One day, I woke up in our guesthouse in Amed, Bali, only to find a painful, stinging pain on my neck. Some sort of insect bit me right at my neck near my collarbone. I was too stubborn to go to the doctor thinking it would clear up soon. Instead, I self-medicated and used coconut oil to relieve the dryness and pain. Lo and behold, it worked really well! Once again, one of our best travel products worked effectively for me.
5. Police Encounters – In Panama, our rental car was vandalized and broken into. We spent a full day meeting with the police, municipal officials and crime scene investigators for what would seem like a minor incident. We never expected a day like this, and the surprisingly friendly dealings with the Panama police.
6. Flying Ants? What! – We lived for a month in a cabin in Ometepe, Nicaragua. While we were cooking dinner, suddenly hundreds of flying ants streamed through the window screen and the small crevices of the cabin. They swarmed the countertops, stove, and floor as we frantically covered our food on the stove and counter. We discovered that turning off the lights stopped their flow inside. As they landed, they lost their wings. Piles of wings, thin like wax paper collected on the floor, walls and windowsills. Despite it all, we loved our cabin living in Ometepe, and it goes down as one of our all-time favorite experiences.
7. Army Ants are our best friends – We learned that army ants are actually good critters that serve a purpose. Unfortunately, we learned this the hard way. Lines of ants crawling in unison in a long procession entered our cabin to ‘clean up’ the bad stuff; other insects such as Scorpions and Tarantulas. Not knowing about this important role of ants, we stomped frenetically on them. Little did we know, if we let them alone to do their job, they would have killed the other nasty insects that came out of the woodwork of the cabin. Lesson learned.
8. Making quick decisions at 4 a.m. – Our bus arrived in Kalaw, Myanmar at 4 a.m. Half asleep and disoriented, we got off the bus, collected our bags, and stared at the quiet main street. There was no one around except for two guys on motorbikes. We realized that our guesthouse was far away, and there were no cabs in this small town. The next thing I knew, Troy and I were on the back of the motorbikes, grasping onto the jackets of complete strangers with our large backpacks wedged in between the seats and the handlebars. This experience was just one of many ways where we pushed our comfort levels and boundaries while traveling.
9. The positive side of getting lost – Vang Vieng, Laos was probably one of our best surprises in 2015. This place was historically a town for young adult partygoers, but it’s the perfect adventure playground for anyone. We were horribly lost motorbiking along the twisting trails through the mountains. Getting lost is one of my fears, but we had fun and a good laugh in the end. The outcome was discovering some phenomenal views of this beautiful country, and again, creating a pretty awesome video. (30 second clip below)
10. Chasing clouds in Moni, Indonesia – Determination. That was the motto for this particular day. We couldn’t wait to see Kelemutu – the volcanic crater lakes that change color in Flores, Indonesia. Our motorbike taxi drove each one of us up the winding roads in darkness to arrive for the 5:30 a.m. sunrise. Well, we saw a quick view of these incredible lakes, and then waited almost six hours for the clouds to clear! Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate and we only witnessed very small, glancing images of the lakes. Then we hiked down (a 5 hour hike) for a spectacular stroll through mountains, fields and farms. Here’s video of what we saw, and here is what we should have seen from some friends who traveled there on a sunny day. Aren’t moments of success or failure part of the journey anyway?
This is what we saw of Kelimutu
This is what Kelimutu should look like, courtesy of crazylittlechicks.
11. Meeting our mastermind – entrepreneur group in person – We spent 11months with 11 strangers, each starting businesses in different cities in the world. Each week, we had a video call sharing our challenges and victories on starting our new business ventures. We were inspired and challenged by this talented group and got to know them on a whole different level. In July, most of us attended the WDS conference in Portland, Oregon, and lucky for us that we met our team of comrades there. It was an absolutely priceless gathering we will never forget.
12. Reconnecting with friends, we traveled around the world – There is nothing like reconnecting with people who were once strangers, became lifelong friends, then meeting them again years later on the other side of the world. We were thrilled to see friends we met in Africa and whom we visited five years later in Australia and our friend Baz in Australia, a good friend from our ‘past life’ in Toronto.
13. Being completely awe-inspired by Myanmar – We never planned to go to Myanmar in 2015, but we did. Thanks to the simplified online process, we decided to go on a whim. We were so taken with the people, the scenery, and lifestyle; it is by far our best destination of 2015. This place is so spectacular that it created the backdrop for many of our best videos. Take a look at these! Yangon, Bagan, Buddhist Monk Ceremony , Trekking Kalaw to Inle Lake and A day on Inle Lake.
14. Believing we could handle the Aussie winter (as Canadians) – We planned to head to Australia in June, which was winter-time there. What warm-blooded Canadian couldn’t handle +10°C temperature? We thought we could, but soon learned that +10°C outside was also 10°C inside. Many homes don’t have furnaces. Homes were built for summer, not for times when windy, drafty cold air is blowing into their homes. Despite that, we had a wonderful warm stay with our friend Naz, but we discovered we were weather whimps!
15. Reconnecting with our inner pet-loving souls, thanks to pet-sitting – We completed three international housesits this year. Pet sitting is an incredible way to see the world, you offer the service of looking after pets and homes in exchange for accommodation. Not only did we meet some great people in Panama and Costa Rica, but we both also fell hopelessly in love with dogs and cats again. We used to be too busy traveling and working to enjoy our own for many years. We got our fix, especially Troy, who became a serious softie for little rescue dogs. Our pet sitting experience also created one of our favorite videos.
16. Becoming Experts at Tick Removal – Yuck! – We love dogs, but we certainly don’t love ticks. ‘Competent Tick Removers’ was now added to our resumes thanks to pet sitting in tropical climates. Ticks are a big problem in Central America, and we were pulling off at least 5-10 ticks, each animal, every day. I went in with tweezers to pull out the ticks, while Troy held the dogs. It was ugly, but we unofficially became really good at this new found skill.
17. Wearing the same clothes all year and not giving a crap – After living a four-closet life, where I (Dorene) had a roomful of clothes and shoes to last a lifetime, I thought it would be a challenging transition to a life of limited wardrobe, stuffed into three small compressor bags. It was easier than I thought, and boy does it simplify life. There is no wasted time or debates with what to wear every day. It just takes a few minutes to decide and surprisingly, I don’t miss my clothes.
18. Getting our credit card skimmed – We got a call from our bank explaining there was suspicious activity on my credit card in Panama. When I called them back, they mentioned it was resolved and there was nothing to worry about. A day later, Troy viewed our account on line and saw $30,000 was charged to our card! Someone sure had a great time at an esthetician and a beauty boutique at our expense. Fortunately, our credit card company reversed the charges quickly, and we have a new card. These fraudulent activities can happen anywhere and this is why we pay credit card fees. (We have also had fraudulent charges when in Canada too.)
19. Discovering a country that we instantly fell in love – Oh, Colombia! We had three weeks left before heading back to Panama, and we landed in Medellín, Colombia for our first stop. From the instant we drove from the airport, we were in awe of its beauty. The people in Colombia are some of the friendliest and most welcoming people we have ever met. We explored Medellín, Cartagena, and Bogotá with each place casting its own beauty of scenery, people and activities. We did not see enough of this beautiful place, and we plan to return after the holidays to explore, live and do some interesting new work there. (Much more details on that).
20. Homecoming – We will never forget coming ‘home ‘after a year, walking in our old neighborhood, a world that was very familiar but is no longer home. But we are guests now and that is ok, with us, we have moved onto a new life, by our choosing. We can’t replace the live hugs and conversations with friends and family with online chats. It was so worth the trip.
Wow, what a year!
And we keep on adding to this list.
And our travels aren’t ending just yet, because we have redesigned our life to continue.
We’d love to hear about your story-worthy travel moments from 2015. Please let us know!
Dorene is a marketing consultant and freelance writer. She quit her 20-year career in marketing to redesign her career and lifestyle on her own terms by living location independent. Now with her husband Troy, she helps people who want to redefine their midlife and make conscious changes at TravelLifeX. She also trains & coaches travel and hospitality clients to improve their marketing at TravelLifeMedia.com